England began their 2018 World Cup qualification campaign with a fortuitous 1-0 win against Slovakia in Trnava.
Sam Allardyce just about managed to secure all three points in his first match in charge, although the overall positive is that his team were the better side over the course of the 90 minutes. It wasn’t a completely terrible performance.
Raheem Sterling went closest to breaking the deadlock in the first half - firing agonisingly wide from inside the penalty area - while Adam Lallana hit the post in the second. Theo Walcott also had a goal disallowed in the final minutes before Lallana tucked home a scrappy winner in the dying seconds.
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England huffed and puffed and will be mightily relieved that they managed to seal the win - particularly as they had a man advantage for over half-an-hour following Martin Skrtel’s idiotic red card.
Scroll down to see the seven things we learned from this match.
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It’s too early to judge Sam Allardyce
Okay, so it wasn’t a vintage performance by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s ridiculous to judge Allardyce on his first 90 minutes as England manager.
The vastly-experienced 61-year-old has only had days - literally - to work with the current squad and although his team selection could have been better, it’s going to take time for his ideas and methods to filter through to the players.
Allardyce has received his fair share of stick - most of it tongue-in-cheek - but quite why fans expected a dramatic improvement in England’s performance from the European Championships is a mystery.
Rooney is playing far too deep
Wayne Rooney became England’s most-capped outfield player today but this wasn’t an individual display that anyone will remember.
By announcing that he’ll be retiring from international football after the 2018 World Cup finals, the Manchester United captain has effectively guaranteed himself a place in Sam Allardyce’s side over the next two years.
But if he is to keep his place in Allardyce’s starting line-up, he’ll need to perform a damn sight better than this.
The biggest problem was that Rooney was playing far too deep. Take a look at his touch map from the first 45 minutes.
England’s all-time record goalscorer was effectively playing as a deep-lying playmaker and, as Jose Mourinho stated in his first United press conference, the 30-year-old just isn’t a midfielder.
Dele Alli should be starting
Dele Alli has looked a little short on fitness during the opening weeks of the 2016-17 campaign, so you can understand why Allardyce opted to start the Tottenham midfielder on the bench.
However, England instantly looked a better team after the 20-year-old replaced Jordan Henderson with just under half-hour remaining in the match.
Alli has often performed well for the Three Lions - remember his excellent performance against Germany in Berlin back in March? - and seeing him sat on the bench for the opening hour just seemed like a complete waste.
Harry Kane desperately needs a goal
Harry Kane started last season very slowly - leading the Tottenham striker’s critics to declare that he was, indeed, a one-season wonder - and it’s been the same story this term.
The 23-year-old, you feel, will rediscover his form and confidence again once that first goal goes in.
But his performances must improve if he’s to keep his place in Allardyce’s starting line-up for the next two World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovenia in October.
England are still hard work to watch
It doesn’t matter who the top man in the dugout is, watching England often feels more like a chore than a pleasure.
Can Big Sam change that?
As previously stated, it’ll take time and even then there’s no grantee that England will become a more enjoyable team to watch.
Marcus Rashford should have been in this squad
Allardyce told reporters that Rashford wasn’t picked for the England senior side because he’s not getting minutes at United, but if that was the case then why was Joe Hart starting?
England needed a goal in the second half and Rashford, who scored the winner for the Red Devils against Hull City last weekend, would have been the ideal player to throw on for the final 10, 15 minutes.
Liverpool are better off without Martin Skrtel
Martin Skrtel is 31 years old - you’d think he’d know better by now.
The centre-back was shown a yellow card for an elbow on Harry Kane and then picked up a second booking for a cynical stamp on the same player in the second half.
Liverpool fans must be relieved that he’s now with Fenerbahce.
Is Sam Allardyce the right man for England? Have your say by leaving a comment below.
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